Tomorrow, Liberty Hill grantee groups will be among the grassroots community organizations whose members testify at a hearing before the California Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color.
The state legislators are gathering in Los Angeles for a third hearing investigating ways to improve the lives of young men of color in the state.Testimony from local leaders, experts and youth will focus on innovative health, education and juvenile justice models for possible statewide expansion, including establishing commonsense school discipline and law enforcement policies.
“Los Angeles needs its young men. All of them. But today, boys and young men of color face unique and significant barriers to their well being,” says Kafi D. Blumenfield, President and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation. “That’s why community leaders in Los Angeles are pioneering approaches to help young men overcome those barriers to lead successful lives.”
The California Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, which was formed by Speaker John Pérez at the request of the committee chair, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, seeks to harness the promise and lessons from the frontlines of Los Angeles’ most successful policies and programs.
Research conducted by the RAND Corporation, PolicyLink and Drexel University found that African-American and Latino boys and young men are much more likely to experience poor health outcomes than white boys and young men. Most of these differences in health are directly related to the communities where they grow up.
“The future of California is tied to the future of boys and young men of color,” says Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment. “We know that health happens in our neighborhoods and in our schools, therefore we must work together to ensure every one of these boys and young men has the resources to live a long, healthy and productive life.”
Investing in young men of color can reap huge dividends for California. According to a 2007 study by the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara, African-American and Latino men graduating high school generate $681,130 and $451,360 more per person in additional dollars for the state than those who do not graduate high school. This is due to increased tax revenue and economic productivity as well as decreased costs associated with poor health or incarceration.
Promising approaches in L.A. have helped inform statewide policy priorities to eliminate obstacles for boys and young men of color. In the last few weeks, empowered high school students working on a multi-year campaign headed by Labor Community Strategy Center succeeded in reversing a punitive policy of pushing students out of school by giving them $250 tickets for being a few minutes late to school. The City Council just voted to change the policy. Young people including many students activists working with InnerCity Struggle have also organized to increase access to college prep courses in all L.A. high schools and have created hundreds of school-based Gay Straight Alliances that have reduced harassment and violence faced by young gay men.
“The good news is we know what works. We’ve led successful campaigns to improve health and education outcomes for boys and young men of color throughout Los Angeles,” says Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President and CEO of Community Coalition. “Now we need state policymakers to scale up existing successful programs while identifying and investing in new approaches.”
Many organizations who have worked on the issues facing young men of color for years expressed support for the committee and its ability to elevate these issues, including: Brotherhood Crusade, Californians for Justice, Community Coalition, East L.A. YMCA, Gay Straight Alliance, InnerCity Struggle, Khmer Girls and Guys in Action, Labor Community Strategy Center, PolicyLink, Movement Strategy Center, Jemmott Rollins Group and Ideate California. The hearing in Los Angeles is the third in a year-long series of hearings conducted by the California Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color. Additional hearings are planned for Fresno, Coachella Valley and Sacramento.